The Language of Trees by Ilie Ruby
Published by Avon A, an imprint of Harper Collins
Twelve years ago, three siblings were out rowing on the lake late at night, trying to escape the raging fight their parents were having. When Melanie, the oldest, thinks she sees something on the far bank and stands to see it, the boat rocks and Luke, the youngest drowns in the rough water. Grant’s father was devastated, having saved Luke’s life during multiple asthma attacks, to lose his patient. Now Grant is in his back at Canandaigua Lake, recovering from his failed marriage. Without really meaning to, he becomes involved in the lives of Melanie’s family, who are desperate to find her as she has been mysteriously missing for the past few days.
It is difficult to give you much sense of the plot, really. Partly because this is a very character-driven novel, although there is a zenith to the action, and partly because I felt that the plotting of “The Language of Trees” was not as tight as it needed to be. There were too many characters given narration privileges and too many plot lines to follow for a novel clocking in under 350 pages. Ruby’s prose is lovely, but when some of the more minor characters reappeared now and then, I found myself thinking “who is that again?”
I also had a mini-rant in the middle of reading “The Language of Trees” about the way that authors name characters. One of the characters who initially seemed to be secondary but gained in importance throughout the story was named Echo. There was no back story given to the name – and not very much given to her in general – and it did not seem to me to highlight anything unique about her character. Since I couldn’t see a specific purpose for naming the character Echo and have never met, or indeed even read about before, a woman named Echo, it distracted me and pulled me out of the story every time.
It may sound from the couple of specific problems I had with “The Language of Trees” that I did not enjoy it, which is not true in the least. I think that Ruby is a very talented writer. I enjoyed her prose and the story she was telling, but I do think that for her next book the plot needs to be tightened up a bit and character names need to be given careful consideration. It would make me even happier if her next novel could be in past tense as well. Regardless, I think that Ruby shows great promise as a novelist and I will be eagerly awaiting her next book.
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